EYE ON EPL
The most impressive statistic, for me, after Southampton's 8-0 whitewash of Sunderland last Saturday was not the lop-sided scoreline.
Rather, it was the fact that five different players found the net. This is the very reason why the Saints keep marching on, despite selling six key players - including England trio Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Luke Shaw - over the summer.
The club is built on a team-first mentality, instilled by former manager Mauricio Pochettino last year.
While his successor Ronald Koeman laps up the plaudits now, one must not forget the Argentinian's revolutionary changes in the dressing room.The English south coast outfit do not depend on one or two stars - because every single player has the same job to do.
Press high, win the ball back, and pounce with pace and panache down the flanks.Shaw's bursting overlapping runs were not missed because loanee Ryan Bertrand does it too. Lallana's eye for a through pass is matched - if not surpassed - by Serbian sensation Dusan Tadic.
Lambert heads the ball well, but Italian targetman Graziano Pelle is even more dominant in the air and just as adept at holding the ball up and linking with roving forwards.
With more than a decade of experience managing top sides in the Netherlands and Spain, Koeman has carried on the Saints' high-intensity philosophy.
As Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola is keen to stress in his new book, passes are not just made for the sake of possession.
Tadic strokes the ball with purpose, not just bringing others into play but at the same time opening up gaps in the opposing backline.Arsenal target Morgan Schneiderlin is the midfield linchpin, dictating the speed and intensity of build-up play.
The real test comes next month when Koeman's troops face the two Manchester clubs and Arsenal in successive matches.But if the Saints stick to their deft counter-attacking setup and harass opponents as a unit, a surprise or two is on the cards.
They don't have the look and feel of your typical unheralded team who climb up the standings in the early months, only to have a nosebleed and collapse in the latter part of the campaign.As Pochettino's departure to Tottenham Hotspur has shown, Southampton already have the right foundations to succeed, regardless of who is in charge.
Their academy is flourishing and, by this time next year, they would have probably unearthed the next Callum Chambers.Even if fast-rising Tadic suddenly declares his childhood dream of playing for Real Madrid and leaves, Koeman has proven to be a shrewd customer in the transfer market.
Southampton could be the only EPL club where fans are excited when a big name leaves - because they know the replacement may well be even better.
This article was first published on October 21, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.